In praise of Vashti Bunyan's music



Three studio albums of Vashti Bunyan's work have been released, along with one compilation. Here is a brief look at each.


Just Another Diamond Day

Her debut, recorded at the very end of the '60s (December 1969). She wrote the songs on Just Another Diamond Day while traveling around the countryside; hence, they largely focus on the flora, fauna, geographic features, and weather she encountered. Many of them have a very traditional-British-folk feel. This album gave music fans their first exposure to the ethereal qualities of her seemingly fragile yet determined voice. While some critical raves poured in, sales were slow, and Vashti decided to leave the music industry.



In 2000, about 30 years after Just Another Diamond Day first appeared, it was reissued on CD, and an enthusiastic new audience embraced Vashti's artistry. As a result, she started making music again, and in 2005, she reemerged with a modern updating of her sound. Her subject matter was updated too, reflecting her change from wandering young minstrel to grownup mother; as the title implies, the songs on Lookaftering are largely about caring for one's family and friends (and oneself). While more intricate instrumentation sometimes lends a less primitive/minimalist feel to the songs, some of them — featuring a single guitar and Vashti's delicately earnest quaver — could have fit into her earlier album. Her return was widely welcomed, and a 2008 documentary (Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before) was even made about this singular musician.


Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind

Following Vashti's long-anticipated second album, a compilation of some of her earliest work was released. These songs, recorded from 1964 to 1967, had not appeared on Just Another Diamond Day (though several of them were appended to a later reissue). The 12 songs on this album's second CD are demos recorded in 1964, featuring just her voice and acoustic guitar. What these tales of love, pain, and yearning lack in lyrical or instrumental complexity, they make up in utter charm. They sound like the audio diary of a wounded but hopeful heart. The first CD has some enjoyable material too, but many of its 13 songs had been revised for commercial release, so they have a glossy and occasionally overproduced feel. (You'll find the original spare and haunting version of "Winter is Blue" along with a commercialized version that sounds overinstrumented and overthought.) The second CD is one of my favorite music collections, and the first CD has enough listenable songs to count as a bonus. Highly recommended!



Hot off the presses (released in October, 2014) is Vashti's latest album, Heartleap. As of this writing, I've heard only bits of it, so I can't comment on the album as a whole ... but it is so lovely to have more of Vashti's music available! I have recently obtained a copy of the CD and plan to share my impressions of it soon.